An exploration of post-graduate students' engagement with community psychology in the South African context.
Community psychology has a large role to play in South Africa. Mainstream psychology does not seem to be the answer to many of South Africa’s mental health and psychosocial concerns for many reasons, but most importantly because it has little relevance to the problems faced by a large portion of the population. Despite it’s potential contribution to addressing this issue, few students persevere with studying community psychology as a subject past an undergraduate level. This report aims to understand what post-graduate students’ experience of studying community psychology and what their perceptions of community psychology are, in order to clarify why this is the case. The students interviewed were 7 post-graduate students who had completed an honours course in community psychology. These interviews were tape recorded and transcribed. These transcriptions were then organised into themes using thematic content analysis. These themes were organised under the broad headings of pre-conceived perceptions of community psychology, post-exposure perceptions of community psychology, the experience of studying community psychology at a post-graduate level, motivations to study community psychology and the impact which community psychology has had on the students’ future. The research shows that students continue to find many differences between traditional psychology and community psychology. Because of this and a poor knowledge of community psychology, students therefore define community psychology in relation to the more traditional sphere. Related to this idea, it was found that students have set ideas about race and racialisation, as well as the application of psychology to different groups. Possibly the most important findings to come out of the research was that of the relevance of community psychology to the South African population and suggestions of students to increase the numbers of students studying community psychology.